Secret Arbitration

HUGE win for the Delaware Coalition for Open Government!

A Delaware law allowing Court of Chancery judges to preside over secret arbitration in business disputes is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the Delaware Coalition for Open Government, which argued that the secret proceedings violated the rights of citizens to attend judicial proceedings and access court records.

In a 26-page ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Mary McLaughlin agreed that the Chancery Court, which often presides over high-profile business disputes involving some of the world’s largest corporations, cannot conduct secret arbitration.

McLaughlin noted that under the arbitration process, a sitting judge hears evidence, finds facts and issues enforceable orders.

“The court concludes that the Delaware proceeding functions essentially as a non-jury trial before a Chancery Court judge,” wrote McLaughlin, who heard oral arguments in February. “Because it is a civil trial, there is a qualified right of access and this proceeding must be open to the public.”

A Great FOI-Driven Data Visualization On Parking Tickets…

The Wilmington, Delaware, Gannett site has created a really cool visualization….The News Journal acquired eight years worth of parking ticket data from the City of Wilmington that shows where and when vehicles are ticketed.

Check it out…very cool!

Delaware Re-Evaluates Secret Juvenile Justice System…

I have long argued that a bit of sunshine would do a great deal of good in the world of juvenile justice, as secretive an institution as exists in American life. Delaware officials might just agree, at least in part. Good for them:

State lawmakers are considering whether to order a study of the feasibility of opening Family Court proceedings to the public.

Open-government advocates have complained for years about the secrecy in which Family Court operates.

Family Court is a trial court that handles domestic relations, juvenile delinquency, and intra-family misdemeanors. Under state law, most Family Court proceedings involving issues such as divorce, adoption, termination of parental rights and custody issues are closed to the public.

But the Delaware Constitution says all courts must be open.

A resolution to be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday calls for the creation of task force to determine whether existing laws regarding Family Court proceedings should be modified to reflect a presumption of open courts.

Delaware, Fighting Strong National Trend, Set To Pass Good FOI Bill

Delawareans could soon learn more about the workings of their local water and sewer authorities under a bill working its way through the state Senate.

The bill sponsored by Dover Democrat Brian Bushweller would amend the Freedom of Information Act to clarify that water and sewer authorities are public bodies subject to open meetings and open records laws.

The bill cleared a Senate committee on Wednesday and is now ready for a vote by the full Senate.


I Like All the FOI Improvement Bills I am Seeing!

A bill setting a time limit for government groups and other public bodies to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests is headed for the state Senate after passing the House unanimously Tuesday night.

House Bill 5, sponsored by Dover Democrat Brad Bennett, would require FOIA requests be granted within 15 business days, unless the request is for large amounts of information, requires legal advice, or the records involved are in storage.

If the deadline is extended, the government agency involved has to tell whoever made the request about the extension within 15 business days.

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